After a long and winding journey nearly three years in the making mobile sports betting finally arrived in NY with much fanfare beginning at 9:00 A.M. on Saturday, January 8th. DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars and BetRivers began accepting online sports bets at this time from those who were located within New York’s borders.
There were two noticeable surprises that took place on day one of mobile sports wagering in New York. The first being that the launch went, well…smoothly.
After waiting almost three years for this to happen and being that there was a shotgun announcement on Thursday that books would be taking bets starting Saturday it seemed almost inevitable that something would not go quite as planned.
But everything surprisingly ran without any major issues. I logged into my DraftKings account just after 9:00 A.M. fully expecting the site to be running slow and/or there to be issues getting my wagers placed. Neither of that occurred. The site loaded expeditiously and after a quick download of some tracking software to verify I was in NY I was able to start making wagers.
And I had a very similar experience with FanDuel.
I also monitored Twitter throughout the day. Every now and now I would notice someone state there was an issue with the geo tracking system not picking up their correct location (meaning the system was saying they weren’t in NY while they claimed to be well within the borders). This happens though from time to time even in states that have been well established in the mobile sports betting market.
Apparently there was also a small technical issue with Caesars midway though the day where some users started to have issues connecting with a live chat.
But by and large with the exception of these very minor issues the launch went well for all providers without any major glitches. That in itself can be considered a big win.
The second big surprise was the aggressive promotional offers the operators offered their customers.
Remember from my previous article where I notated that the state of NY was charging these operators a tax of 51% of the final revenue from sports betting. This is a massive tax and had many in the industry questioning whether accepting sports wagers could even be profitable for those who choose to operate in the state. It was widely believed that costs would have to be put somewhere and naturally the first place would be a rollback of aggressive promotional offers we saw when other states launched mobile sports betting.
The initial offerings from DraftKings and FanDuel were for a $100 free bet bonus to NY customers. Well, both DraftKings and FanDuel also offered a pair of very generous easy win bets. FanDuel for example offered New York customers a wager on whether 3 points or more would be scored in the Kansas City-Denver NFL game on Saturday. That wager paid even money and was capped at $50 per person. Easy money. They also offered the same wager for the Dallas-Philadelphia NFL game later that night.
DraftKings also periodically throughout the day put up other “gimme” bets capped at $25 per person. I counted three such bets in total at day’s end.
BetRivers was offering New Yorkers who signed up to their service up to a $250 deposit bonus.
But it was Caesars who blew the lid off when it came to promotional offers. They offered a $300 free bet plus up to a $3000 deposit bonus (there is some fine print there so make sure to read it in full before deciding whether or not to take advantage of this offer).
Operators placed a high emphasis on getting consumers to put their “foot in the door” so to say with enticing offers that will clearly have a short term increased negative impact on the bottom line. The focus was on getting as many people as possible signed up day one regardless of the cost.
What will be interesting will be whether or not any of these operators will offer any more “gimme” bets or other promotional offers in the coming days. We simply don’t know right now. Now what will they do if anything to keep enticing those customers to use their mobile sports wagering service. Again that 51% tax on final revenue is a big hinderance but these books have to weigh that with losing some of the massive momentum gained from the initial launch.
Also I would be remiss if I didn’t note what a big advantage DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars and BetRivers gained on day one over the other competitors who will soon be joining into the fray in New York. Having the first crack at gaining the customer in such a large market as New York puts these four at a major advantage. The other five operators who will soon be coming (Resorts World, BetMGM, PointsBet, BallyBet and WynnBet) are behind the eight ball.
They will need to do something to gain customers and you can bet that something will be very costly. Keep in mind that New Yorkers are now expecting significant promotional offers when signing up to a new sportsbook given what happened on opening day.
Per GeoComply, a company that provides the software for gaming operators to verify where users are physically located, New York showed a transaction volume of 5.8 million on Saturday from 9:00 A.M to 9:00 P.M.. The next closest this day were Pennsylvania (2.3 million) and New Jersey (2.1 million). So it appears that NY is quickly becoming the number one state for sports wagering in the country. And this may of course be the ultimate reason the operators were willing to forgo what are likely some heavy losses in the onset to attempt to gain market share.
How I Spent My Day
Do I consider myself the typical target consumer in this market? I am a 41 year old male who is a sports fanatic, so maybe. My initial plans were to set up accounts with all four providers. When I started Saturday morning, I first went to DraftKings with whom I already had a Daily Fantasy Sports account. With funds already in the account I quickly signed up for the Sportsbook service in NY and was off to races in a matter of minutes.
It was easy to get going since I had already had a well-established account on the DFS side with DraftKings.
DraftKings is the DFS site I use must. But I also use FanDuel and that was my second stop. Also quick and easy to get going. But then I stopped signing up for new accounts.
Was I being lazy? Maybe, but two felt like a good enough start and I didn’t want to put up with the hassle of establishing all new accounts with Caesars and BetRivers. My thought process being that they will likely have promotions for New Yorkers going on for at least a little while and I can jump into that next week.
What is my point? If I had to guess, I think DrafKings and FanDuel, with their already well-established presence in the DFS market, jumped out to the lead in market share in day one of NY sports mobile betting. If people were like me and choose convenience—-is it a bit of a pain to go through the new account set up process—to get going then DraftKings and FanDuel would have been the go-to stops.
Some Final Notes
Caesars put on perhaps the biggest marketing blitz online and when I did searches on Twitter of all four Ceasars far and away showed the most activity.
BetRivers seemed to be the least searched of the four providers on Twitter. That makes sense. As noted earlier DraftKings and FanDuel already had a presence in NY and Ceasars is a well-known brand.
If I had to make an educated guess here is how I think these sites ranked in terms of market share day one.